Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Dinner Mints Miracle

dinner mints miracle photo by candy dorsey
I don't know what to call it nor do I know why it happened, but let me tell you about the Dinner Mints Miracle.

I was having a dinner party for a few friends, the kind of dinner where I'd be using the good crystal, china, silverware and white linen tablecloth and napkins.

I asked my friend Mary if she would get there early to help me with last minute preparations. There we were, I in the kitchen and Mary in the dining room setting the table to perfection when suddenly I blurted out “I FORGOT TO GET DINNER MINTS”. I was on the verge of hyperventilating over the lack of dinner mints when Mary offered to go to the store for them. I rejected that idea telling her that I needed her here, there's still so much to do. How could I have been so negligent to forget dinner mints.

My rant was interrupted by the doorbell, which led to more hyperventilating. Is it possible that guests are arriving an hour early. Mary, the calm one, opened the door. Standing there was a young boy holding a cardboard box. He said he was selling assorted candies and, you guessed it, dinner mints as a school project. I don't know how many boxes Mary paid for, I was still ranting.

I continued my tirade with “I don't know what dish to put them in, I have to find something pretty for them”. Mary, the calm one, began looking in all my kitchen cabinets until she came across a large margarita glass. “Put them in this” she said. Problem solved and I can breathe again. 

When having guests, I like to set up a small table out of the way with an already started jigsaw puzzle. Guests can fit a few pieces in when there's a lull in the conversation or a lack of interest in the topic of conversation. Please put your explanation of why this happened in the comment section below. (your comment won't show up right away, it might take a day or two).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trump Organization Gets $40 Million Tax Credit

Trump Hotel, Washington D.C. 
Photo Credit: cisko66 Wikimedia
Established in 1976, the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program is designed to preserve and restore historic buildings that have fallen into disrepair.

To be eligible for tax credits, the buildings must be income-producing, so if you want to restore your historic home don't expect a tax credit. But if a billionaire developer or the owner of a major league baseball stadium wants to restore an old building or stadium, they get the credit. Who pays for that? The federal taxpayers, that's who. Since its inception in 1976 the Federal Historic Tax Credit Program has generated more than $73 billion in restoring luxury resorts, hotels, movie theaters and baseball stadiums. Yes, the new Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. and Boston's Fenway Park both received tax credits at the expense of taxpayers. We don't get free or discounted admission to see the Red Sox play. We don't get discounted room rates to stay at the Trump Hotel.

There are a lot of good points for restoration; jobs are created, property values in the area go up and tourists bring in revenue for the community. My opinion is, the burden for the cost of restoration should be at the state level, not federal, and the Department of the Interior could be more selective in their decision making.

The cost to taxpayers is ongoing and never ending. Here are just a few:
  • Trump Organization, Washington, D.C. hotel - $40 million
  • Fenway Park, Boston, Mass. baseball stadium - $40 million
  • Hill Building, Durham, N.C. hotel - $7.9 million

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior, Technical Preservation Services

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Medicare and Medicaid Wasting Money

The federal government seems to have some creative ways to waste taxpayer dollars. If only they would use that talent to find ways to solve problems rather than ignore them or worse yet, cover them up.
Don't hold your breath.

Medicare and Medicaid Reimbursements
When a Medicare or Medicaid patient goes to a doctor or hospital, a claim is filed for reimbursement and payment is made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) directly to the doctor or hospital. That's not hard to understand, not even for bureaucrats. But if a claim is denied by CMS the hospital has the right to appeal. That seems fair.

So What's the Problem?
The CMS is disorganized, backlogged so far they can't even see daylight, and dare I say incompetent. That's the problem. Rather than fixing the problem, the CMS agrees to partially pay hospitals who appeal a claim that has been denied. 
In 2015 CMS settled 300,000 claims that had already been reviewed, found to be 'medically unnecessary' and denied...twice.
CMS pays these claims from the Medicare Trust Fund without congressional approval.



Hey Congress, wake up and smell the money burning!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Get Paid to Do Nothing, Work for the Government

I was not surprised to learn that the federal government has a pattern of putting workers on paid administrative leave for months and even years, many of these workers have been accused of misconduct or whistleblowing. We, the taxpayers, are paying their salaries.

In 2014 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the procedures of five departments:
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Department of the Interior (DOI)
  • General Services Administration (GSA)

Results of the review showed these departments paid a collective $3.1 BILLION to workers on paid administrative leave from 2011 to 2013. The report found in that time frame 57,000 employees were on paid leave for one month or longer at a cost of $775 MILLION.
Most workers are placed on administrative leave because of an ongoing investigation involving misconduct, employee disputes or grievances and whistleblowing.
These issues I'll admit are probably complicated and need to be handled with care and clarity. But it seems to me the department officials are dragging their feet in resolving those issues. Maybe the government can step up their efforts to resolve employee issues and get them off paid leave. They need to make a decision one way or another which will allow the employees to return to work or look for another job.

Cost to taxpayers:  Astronomical and perpetual.

Fed Bldg San Pedro CA Unsafe and Uninhabitable Since 2007

If you think the federal government is wasting taxpayer dollars, you're right. Here is another way the government spent our money and accomplished nothing. This building in San Pedro, California has been inspected and deemed unsafe.
 What is it?

This is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) immigrant detention center on Terminal Island off San Pedro, CA., owned by the Department of Homeland Security. (DHS). It housed hundreds of immigrant detainees and offices for employees.

What happened?

In 2007 the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an inspection of the building and found several unsafe conditions, mostly fire related such as:
  • Sprinkler systems had been turned off
  • The fire alarm system does not cover the entire building and does not connect with outside sources such as a monitoring station.
  • There are no smoke detectors, horns or strobe lights.
(this is just a partial list)

Posing an imminent risk to employees, the OIG ordered the building closed and vacated until the problems could be fixed.
In 2008 ICE officials decided to use the building again without making any improvements, putting the lives of employees in danger.  

Fast forward to 2012 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted an inspection of the facility and found many “critical life safety issues that should be addressed immediately” and that the building is not a safe work environment.

Cost to taxpayers:

Between 2008 and 2014 ICE spent $4.2M to repair the building but it was still unsafe in 2014 when the OIG made another inspection. In 2015 ICE was awarded $1.2M for more repairs. Without a solid long-term plan, ICE had the repair work done in series of small projects and patchwork repairs. The building is still unsafe and empty at a cost of $6,000,000.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Truck Drivers on Diets and the Feds

The American economy depends heavily on the thousands of long-haul trucks on the road and the drivers who spend days, weeks and months at a time delivering the products we use every day. The good health of these drivers should be of importance to all of us. But, is this just another way that the federal government wastes taxpayer dollars?

The National Institutes of Health awarded a four-year grant (2011-2015) to Oregon Health and Science University to conduct a cell-phone-based program for truckers to engage in a “weight loss competition” and “motivational interviewing”. Yes, really!

The program began with a six-month weight monitoring program then concluded with a 30-month follow up study, for each trucker. The purpose was to determine if the truckers could make healthier decisions on their own, without further intervention or motivation from outside sources.

Cost to taxpayers:  $2.6 million

Do you think this is money well spent?  I certainly encourage truckers, and everyone else, to make healthy living choices. Below are a few of my ideas at no cost to taxpayers.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Soviets and Cigarettes

As Americans we read and hear on the news about how the federal government spends and wastes taxpayer dollars, in the millions and billions. The same thing happens in small amounts too but that's never covered in the news. But those small expenditures in the form of federal grants add up.   

The National Institutes of Health (an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) in their mission statement seeks to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability by investing $32 billion yearly in medical research for the good of the American people.

In April, 2015 the NIH awarded a one year grant to University of Arkansas historian Tricia Starks to research and write a book titled Cigarettes and Soviets: The Culture of Tobacco Use in Modern Russia. Ms. Starks is an expert on the subject.  
The relevance of the book as it relates to Americans is that understanding Russia's smoking history will aid the United States in efforts to control tobacco use. (Yes, really.)
Cost to taxpayers: $48,500

I'm no expert on Russian cigarette smoking, but I don't think it's money well spent. I do hope Ms. Starks has success with her book though. What do you think?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

State Dept Employees Learn How Not to Lie, Cost to Taxpayers $545K

How many ways can the federal government spend and waste taxpayers money? Here's one:

Testifying before Congress is probably intimidating, even for seasoned and well-heeled ambassadors, diplomats, lawmakers and various officials. But I like to think they can rise to the occasion by being prepared for any questions and remaining calm under stress. Unfortunately, there have been embarrassing testimonies by diplomats that could have been avoided by simply telling the truth.

The State Department came up with a solution by contracting an outside agency to hold classes that will teach senior level officials how to answer questions. The name of the course: “Communicating with Congress: Briefing and Testifying”.

AMTIS, Inc. was awarded a five-year contract beginning in 2014 to hold three or four classes each year with a class of no less than 10 and no more than 15 participants.

To sum it up, the State Department is paying AMTIS, Inc. $545,000 to teach federal employees something that can be taught from within the State Department by a competent staff that is already on the payroll. A less costly solution, in my opinion, 'just tell the truth'.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson was First Lady of the United States from November 22, 1963, when her husband Lyndon Baines Johnson took office, until January 20, 1969.

Born Claudia Alta Taylor in Karmack, Texas, her nurse remarked that she was as pretty as a ladybird. The name stayed with her.

Lady Bird Taylor graduated high school at 15 but when she realized that she had the highest grades in her class she intentionally let her grades slip so that she wouldn't have to give the valedictorian speech. After graduation she enrolled in the University of Alabama for the summer and took her first journalism course. Rather than enrolling for the fall semester, she returned to Texas and entered St. Mary's Episcopal College for Women. After graduating from St. Mary's, Lady Bird entered the University of Texas where she earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees, a year apart, one in history the other journalism. 

A shrewd businesswoman and wise investor, Lady Bird Johnson used her family inheritance to buy a radio station, it proved wildly successful. She subsequently bought a television station, against the advice of her husband while reminding him that she could do what she wanted with her inheritance. The television station also proved successful. The Johnson's became millionaires by way of Lady Bird's $41,000 investment and business acumen. Lady Bird Johnson was the first First Lady to become a millionaire in her own right.  

Mrs. Johnson was the first First Lady to employ a press secretary, a chief of staff and a liaison with Congress. As First Lady she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In a poll ranking the most important and influential First Ladies, Lady Bird Johnson ranked third behind Abigail Adams and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jacqueline 'Jackie' Kennedy

Jacqueline 'Jackie' Kennedy was the First Lady of the United States from 1961, when her husband John F. Kennedy took office, until his assassination in 1963.

Born Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, she learned to ride before she could walk and became an accomplished equestrian. As a youngster, she attended private schools, studied ballet, wrote stories and poems and drew illustrations for them. As a student at Vassar she was a member of the art and drama clubs and also wrote for the school newspaper. In her junior year of college Bouvier traveled to France in a study-abroad program through Smith College, where she studied at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris. Upon her return home to the United States she transferred to George Washington University in Washington, D.C. where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French literature. During her early years of marriage to John F. Kennedy, she took continued-education classes at Georgetown University.

Upon moving to the White House, Mrs. Kennedy made it her first priority to restore the historical character of the White House and to make the house family friendly by adding a kitchen to the family floor. Prior to the Kennedy administration, furnishings and other items in the White House had been taken by previous presidents and their families, leaving the White House bare of historical pieces. Mrs. Kennedy personally wrote letters to track down many of the missing historic pieces. She also introduced a Congressional bill establishing that White House furnishings would be the property of the Smithsonian rather than for outgoing presidents to take as they wish. She founded the White House Historical Association, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House and created the position of a permanent Curator of the White House. She was the first First Lady to employ a curator.

On November 22, 1963 she was sitting alongside her husband in the back seat of a car in Dallas, Texas as he was assassinated by a lone gunman.

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